The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Individuals have a moral obligation to assist those in need

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/26/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,719 times Debate No: 42960
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (15)
Votes (1)




I have decided to challenge ModerateLiberalism to this debate challenge. After discussion in PMs, we decided that I would be affirming the resolution and he would be negating it.
Resolved: Individuals have a moral obligation to assist those in need

Unless clarified in rounds, assume definitions to be the standard dictionary defintion that best applies to the context of the resolution.
This will be an LD debate. Normal LD protocols will apply, as will LD case framework. This does not mean that Value/Criterion formatting is necessary.
The round structure will go like this:
Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Affirmative will present their case, Negative will present case and refute the AC
Round 3: Rebuttals
Round 4: More rebuttals
Round 5: Time to wrap it up. No new arguments.
I ask that since this is an LD debate, that only people who are familiar with LD debate vote. It makes things a lot easier on the both of us.
Good luck!


Should be a fun debate, excited for Pro's first constructive
Debate Round No. 1


FIRST: Presume aff because it would be worse to negate and be wrong than affirm and be wrong because the duties denied and ignored would be insurmountable violations

SECOND: Moral obligations are distinct from legal obligations, in that an agent need not be able to act on a duty to have a moral obligation. Lectric Law Library writes:

The ‘Lectric Law Library. Lexicon. Moral Obligation.

“[A moral obligation is] A duty which one… ought to perform, not legally bound to fulfill. …the obligation to be charitable…can never be enforced by law. … it subsists in morality and conscience; but … the moral obligation is a sufficient consideration for the promise”

This delinks over demandingness and means the possession of a moral obligation can occur absent possibility to fulfill so implementation is irrelevant.

I value morality. I advocate the metaethical theory of naturalism which says that moral facts are empirical facts and ethics must be grounded in the laws of nature. This is justified because:

First: basic laws of physic confirm that only ethics cannot arise out of intuition or abstract principles. Naturalism is the only coherent metaethic. Papineau writes:

David Papineau, “Naturalism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007.

“the conservation of energy does imply that … if mental or vital forces arose spontaneously, then there would be nothing to ensure that they never led to energy increases. …Detailed physiological research, especially into nerve cells, gave no indication of any physical effects that cannot be explained in terms of basic physical forces that also occur outside living bodies. we should identify mental states with brain states, for otherwise those mental states would be "nomological danglers" which play no role in the explanation of behaviour. … since the only laws governing behaviour are those connecting behaviour with physical antecedents, mental events can only be causes of behaviour if they are identical with those physical antecedents.”

Second: Naturalism best accounts for moral motivation and supervenience. Papineau 2:

“First …non-natural moral facts could [not] have any motivating force … if such facts are incapable of having effects of any kind, they will a fortiori be incapable of motivating human beings. [second,] intuition … demand[s] that two situations that are identical with respect to physical properties will also be morally identical. … this will follow from … naturalist principles. Non-naturalists, by contrast, … lack any … explanation of why moral facts should so supervene on physical facts”

Third: epistemologically naturalism is the only coherent theory because we can only know through empirical and physical thoughts. Dewey writes:

John Dewey The Realism of Pragmatism The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods Vol. 2, No. 12 (Jun. 8, 1905), pp. 324-327. Jstor.

“Pragmatism believes that in knowledge as a fact, an accomplished matter, things are 'representative of one another,' … Ideas, sensations, mental states, are, in their cognitive significance, … that they become representative of one another. When this is accomplished, they drop out' … States of consciousness' refer to getting knowledge; to the situation when things as objective fail us; have … gone back on us; when accordingly we neither have them to know nor yet to know with. It is in this situation, and only in this situation, that 'states of consciousness' exist or have meaning, cognitively speaking … States of consciousness, sensations and ideas as cognitive, exist as tools, bridges, cues, functions -whatever one pleases-to affect … Known things, as known, are direct presentations … pragmatism carries with it a reinterpretation, and a realistic interpretation, of 'states of consciousness' as representations. They are practically or effectively, not transcendentally, representative.”

Moreover, we must derive an “ought” from an “is” to avoid infinite regression by grounding our claims somewhere. Otherwise we could always ask why we ought to perform a prescribed task.

If naturalism is true then that leads to the normative conclusion that ethics must be grounded in empathy and being consistent with empathic responses. Thus the standard is engaging empathically with people because:

First: Every neural perception and empirical claim is based on being consistent with empathy. Mirror neurons and multiple neuroscientific studies proves. Preston and Waal write:

Stephanie D. Prestonand Frans B. M. de Waal. Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases. BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (2002) 25, 1–72.

“mirror neurons” … represent goal-directed actions, allowing individuals to understand and imitate the actions of others. In a brain-imaging study using … (PET), observing an action with the intent to imitate it activated the areas used in planning and performing the actions … In an fMRI study, the left inferior frontal cortex and the rostral-most part of the right superior parietal lobule were activated when subjects observed a finger movement and when initiating the same movement under different conditions. … The results … support … “direct matching” hypotheses of perception and action. … These shared representations for perception and action are also activated when a movement is imagined … evidence supports a common representation for mental and manual rotation. RTs for imagining and performing a rotation movement are virtually identical …”

Second: Other theories of the brain miss the crucial point. Literally every neuro function is based on empathy. If we reject empathy or don’t engage in empathic engagement every other sense of perception is flawed and negative. Preston and Waal 2 write:

“A process … makes empathy a … category that includes all subclasses of phenomena that share the same mechanism. This includes emotional contagion, sympathy, cognitive empathy, helping behavior, … This process model also links empathy to all facilitation behaviors that rely on perception- action … A Perception-Action Model of empathy specifically states that attended perception of the object’s state automatically activates the subject’s representations of the state, situation, and object, and that activation of these representations automatically primes or generates the associated autonomic on their interdependence or interrelationship. Interdependence can be temporary and superficial, like when the subject and object must cooperate for a local goal or when the object’s distress blocks the goal of the subject.”

Third, abstract theories of ethics such as contractarianism try to locate moral truths in the a priori deductions of practical reason. However, since all facts are scientific facts, and all scientific facts are known only by experience, there are no a priori side constraints in nature.

And empathy doesn’t have to be grounded in actions, under my interpretation it is grounded in brain function.

Thus the affirmative burden is to show that within empathic engagement we are morally obligated to assist.

I content that empathy requires a moral obligation to those in need.

First: Empathy is the basis of self-sacrifice. We are 100% obligated based on our empathic nature. Olson writes:

Gary Olson. From Mirror Neurons to Moral Neuropolitics. PDF is online.

“empathy contribute robust empirical evidence … for organizing … societies … consistent with … care, effort, responsibility, courage and respect. … reciprocity mandates equality and an end to exploitation and oppression, it follows that “a just, compassionate treatment of other people is on the grand scale of things one of the conditions for one’s own thriving.” … human nature … has the capacity to lead to … sacrifice, and support, and solidarity, and tremendous courage, … The critical question is … to realize a form of global environment that enhances the opportunity for the empathic aspect of our nature to flourish.”

Second: We cannot reject an obligation because that is an individualistic approach that rejects empathy. Strong reciprocity subsists in all human consciousness, driving us to reward altruism and punish non-altrusim even at personal cost. Gintis et al:

H. Gintis, Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico and, The Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, J. Henrich, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, S. Bowles, Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM, USA, R. Boyd, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA, E. Fehr, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, Soc Just Res 2008, “Strong Reciprocity and the Roots of Human Morality”

“a compellingly large body of research suggest[s] …Strong Reciprocity[, or] …a propensity … to cooperate with others similarly disposed, even at personal cost, and a willingness to punish those who violate cooperative norms, even when punishing is personally costly. …this ‘‘reciprocity’’ …embraces an ethic of treating others as they treat us, bestowing favors on those who cooperate with us, and punishing those who take advantage of our largesse. …Strong reciprocity is a universal structure of human morality. …”

Third: our natural empathy makes us altruistic. Ruse:

Ruse (Michael Ruse, professor of history and philosophy, University of Guelph, Ontario, 1986 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon, “Evolutionary Ethics: A Phoenix Arisen”)

“competition for limited resources …does not imply that there will always be … ongoing …combat. …much more personal benefit can … be achieved through a process of cooperation … Humans … benefit biologically from cooperation … and … moral altruism is the way in which we achieve that end … evolution has filled us full of thoughts about right and wrong, the need to help our fellows …Thus we have evolved innate mental dispositions … inclining us to cooperate, in the name of … morality … our altruistic nature, is … a cost-effective way of getting us to cooperate, which avoids both the pitfalls of blind action and the expense of … pure rationality.”



Thank you for an excellent first constructive. I'll do my best to work with a subject I've never even philosophically considered; it should be fun.

A quick overview: Aff has provided a definition of moral obligation that I will indeed accept, however, the resolution in and of itself appears to be absolute, with 0 caveats and exceptions to this resolution, meaning that Aff's burden is to show that the resolution is absolute and not contingent upon any other caveats, granted it is a rather broad resolution. Essentially, a moral obligation is one which someone has a moral duty to perform, yet not necessarily a legal duty, though many situations may include both. But I will now move on to absolute obligations.

1. What Obligations Exist Absolutely?

a. Categorical vs. Hypothetical Imperatives

Kant identifies two types of imperatives, both of which command us to direct our will towards certain actions through morality rather than law. The categorical imperative:

" commands us to exercise our wills in a particular way, not to perform some action or other. It is categorical in virtue of applying to us unconditionally, or simply because we possesses rational wills, without reference to any ends that we might or might not have. It does not, in other words, apply to us on the condition that we have antecedently adopted some goal for ourselves."

The hypothetical imperative, on the other hand:

" is a command that also applies... in virtue of our having a rational will, but not simply in virtue of this. It requires us to exercise our wills in a certain way given we have antecedently willed an end ...a command in a conditional form. But not any command in this form counts as a hypothetical imperative in Kant's sense... Further, ‘if you want pastrami, try the corner deli’ is also a command in conditional form, but strictly speaking it too fails to be a hypothetical imperative in Kant's sense since this command does not apply to us in virtue of our willing some end, but only in virtue of our desiring or wanting an end."

So which ends ought we will unconditionally?

b. Kantian Ethics

The Categorical Imperative compels us to ask ourselves if situations exist in which it would not be morally preferable or in which acting would not be a moral duty when assisting the needy. This will be covered later on. But insofar as nearly all ostensible categorical imperatives can be placed into a situation in which, if acting in accordance with the imperative, an actor would violate the rights of others, especially Kant's most important imperative, then the action should not be committed. The only categorical imperative that Kant actually provides and is defendable is his "kingdom of ends":

"(i) it requires that we conform our actions to the maxims of a legislator of laws (ii) that this lawgiver lays down universal laws, binding all rational wills including our own, and (iii) that those laws are of ‘a merely possible kingdom’ each of whose members equally possesses this status as legislator of universal laws, and hence must be treated always as an end in itself. The intuitive idea behind this formulation is that our fundamental moral obligation is to act only on principles which could earn acceptance by a community of fully rational agents each of whom have an equal share in legislating these principles for their community"

Let us now examine how far empathy goes under Aff's naturalistic framework

2. Contingency of Resolution

a. Humans as Tribal Animals
Aff's first source under his empathy argument merely observes that humans have the capacity for empathy. But empathy is merely defined as "the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions."

He merely observes that humans have this capacity and asserts that it is utilized in all interactions between humans. However, he must then make the jump from capacity to understand another to the obligation to assist another, or altruism, as Aff puts it. He then provides a source that merely states that compassion is good for society because "reciprocity" and people like altruism.

But is this proof that we always have a moral obligation to assist those in need?

First, it is evident that, while empathy may be omnipresent in relations with others, this does not make it compelling in an absolute manner. Empathy can be measured, can vary from person to person, and is certainly not absolute. In fact, people display greater empathy towards dogs than humans.

This notion of reciprocity may be salient within societies, but using Aff's naturalistic framework, we can see that humans have an inclination to assist those within a group to a greater extent than those outside of a group. This is why, given the choice of saving the life of your mother and a Nicaraguan child that you've never met, you will most likely choose your mother every time. Humans have the capacity to feel more obliged to assist those closer to them than those sharing no similarities beyond biology.

"...conducted punishment experiments, which allow 'impartial' observers to punish norm violators, with indigenous groups in Papua New Guinea. that these experiments confirm the prediction of parochialism. ...punishers protect ingroup victims—who suffer from a norm violation—much more than they do outgroup victims, regardless of the norm violator's group affiliation. Norm violators also expect that punishers will be lenient if the latter belong to their social group. As a consequence, norm violations occur more often if the punisher and the norm violator belong to the same group."

It is evident that victims of any violation of norms, which are certainly culturally contingent yet consistently altruistic according to Aff, are naturally seen as more worthy of protection when they belong to a the group of the punishers. When it comes to helping those in need of protection, humans are biologically inclined to assist those they know and those who are part of their groups, and under a pure naturalistic framework, which Aff is using, this means that we have a greater obligation to those closer than those further, even though they may be equally needy.

b. Rights vs. Duty

This ostensibly omnipresent duty to assist those in need potentially conflicts with the inherent rights of an individual, insofar as the end of helping the needy is a preferable consequentialist goal of action under the resolution. There is no caveat in the resolution stating "so long as the rights of others are respected". There is only obligation, absolute and based not on circumstance. To determine whether or not we should act, we can use Kamm's Principle of Permissible Harm (PPH):

" is not permissible for an act to require lesser evil as a means to a greater good."

Kamm, Frances. Intricate Ethics. New York City: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2007. Print.

So, for example, if I am homeless, and I wish to purchase a dinner for my starving homeless friend, but the only way I can purchase a dinner is by pickpocketing a passerby who is reasonably well-off, it is still not permissible for me to rob the man despite Aff's assertion that helping the needy is a moral obligation, and I would be fulfilling that obligation in this situation. This man has a right to his money and I have no right to steal from him according to the PPH. Similarly, I have no right to push a man off a bridge to stop a trolley barreling towards 5 people, even though the aggregate necessity of the action derived from the 5 people certainly outweigh that of the man. I have acted in accordance with the resolution, yet I have violated the PPH and the imperative not to use people as merely means.

c. Contradictions in Aff's Framework

Aff values acting in accordance with what is best for society and with naturalism. However, as stated in his own constructive, this often requires acting in direct opposition to the resolution. It would appear that Aff's argument asserts the need for reciprocity rather than the resolution at hand. Gintis et al, as cited by Aff:

"...and a willingness to punish those who violate cooperative norms."

Now, this would seem to suggest that, under Aff's values, helping the needy is not always an obligation. In fact, we would occasionally be obligated to punish the needy. For example, if a homeless man committed murder, we would, under this notion of reciprocity and justice, be obligated to punish him. His actions did not make him any less needy. He still owned no home and had little to no money, but reciprocity naturally drives us to punish him. Aff’s resolution is absolute and is not contingent upon relevant circumstantial factors, yet certain circumstances under Aff’s own arguments would call for action antithetical to his resolution. This is an irreconcilable issue that Aff cannot resolve without knifing part of his own proof to rid himself of his contradiction.

3. Individuals vs. Society

This will be short, lack of space. Aff provides no evidence as to why society cannot relieve individuals of this obligation. The institutions that govern a society can be structured to behave in a manner conducive to assisting those in need to an acceptable extent. A thought experiment: you see a man whose house is on fire while walking to work. You have called the fire department and they will arrive in 5 minutes. You have a bottle of Powerade. Do you have an obligation to forgo quenching your thirst to assist the owner in a manner that is both marginal (inconsequential) and negligible in comparison to what you foresee the fire department is capable of? If society can fulfill the obligation, then Aff must warrant why individuals still have this broad, amorphous duty. I will elaborate in later rounds.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent makes a few key misinterpretations of the resolution, as well as my case, which are his biggest downfalls and will by why you're voting Aff this debate.

1. The resolution specifically states "Individuals have a moral obligation to assist". Furthermore, my opponent accepted my definition of moral obligation which specifically states "A duty which one ought to perform but is not legally bound to fulfill". Both specifically point to the fact that all I have to do is prove that there is such an obligation, not how I actually go about it, not which obligation is greater. It's highly ironic that my opponent's telling me "No caveats and cop-outs Aff" while trying to force me to defend something that the resolution doesn't ask me to. So let me be perfectly clear: Under the resolution, I do not have to defend anything other than does the obligation exist. Anything else is non-topical.

2. My opponent provides no other alternative framework or weighing mechanism to evaluate the round under. This means that you automatically default to my framework of naturalism. This also means you can cleanly extend out my value and criterion, and evaluate the round under an empathetic mindset.

I'll run through my opponent's arguments now:

Argument One: Kant

There's absolutely no impact to this argument at all. My opponent essentially just says "According to Kant, there are Categorical Imperatives and Hypothetical Imperatives. WHICH ONE DO WE GO TO!?!?" and then moves on. There's no actual point to this argument. All of the evidence he posted for it was just explanations of what each one was. With no impact, there's no reason to listen to it.
Secondly: It's irrelevant to the debate. It doesn't matter which of these I have to follow, but rather that I just show that one exists.
Thirdly: You can turn any talk of the Categorical Imperative since that affirms the resolution. The entire basis of the CI, as stated in my opponent's own source, is "‘I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law’"(1). Assisting others in need fits since I can will others to help me to be a universal law with no harmful reprocussions.
Fourthly: My opponent makes the statement "But insofar as nearly all ostensible categorical imperatives can be placed into a situation in which, if acting in accordance with the imperative, an actor would violate the rights of others, especially Kant's most important imperative, then the action should not be committed. ", but never warrants why assisting people violates their rights. You can safely ignore this one since it has no warrant to it.

Argument Two: Humans as Tribal Animals

The argument is pointless. Even if you buy that I have a "greater" obligation to my mother than to a Nicaraguan child, that doesn't mean the obligation to assist the child goes away or is invalid and doesn't exist anymore. Insofar as all I have to do is prove that the obligation exists, and not whether or not we act on it, this argument doesn't negate and has no weight in the round.
Second: My opponent states that just because empathy is about feelings and stuff means that I need to make some sort of jump between that and an obligation. This is exactly what my entire case is talking about. To point to specfics:

1. You can extend Olson which explicitly explains why empathy requires a moral obligation. He never responds to this.
2. You can extend Gintis et all, which explicitly explains why we cannot reject the obligation empathy imposes. His only response is that a part of the wording looks weird but that's not a response against the actual warrant of the evidence, which remains untouched. I'll get to the supposed contradiction in a minute.
3. You can extend Ruse which explains how our empathy makes us altruistic. This goes unresponded to by my opponent.

Third: This entire group system that my opponent sets up here is entirely irrelevant. What group people in need belong to have absolutely no impact on whether or not we have an obligation to assist them. My opponent never warrants why we have no obligation to assist those outside of our "group", only saying that we have a "greater obligation" to help those close to us. This "greater obligation" argument actually would imply that if we have a greater obligation to those closer to us, that we do indeed have an obligation to those farther. If true this conceeds that we have obligations to assist others, which essentially concedes the debate to the affirmative.
Fourth: My opponent's evidence doesn't lead to his conclusion. Just saying that we prefer to help those closer to us does not mean that we have a greater obligation to help them, but rather that if given the choice and equal obligation, we will choose to help those closer to us. If my mother is in need of a few dollars to go get a shake from McDonalds and a Nicaraguan child needs medication to cure his tuberculosis, it doesn't instantly mean the greater obligation is to my mother because she's closer to me. There needs to be a link between this preference and why it represents a greater obligation, and my opponent does not provide this link. But even if you do buy his argument here that the link is there, that doesn't diminish the fact that the obligation still exists.

Argument Three: Rights vs. Duties

This entire argument is my opponent cherry-picking examples where obligations, when acted on could force us to violate other people's rights. There's no warrant for why assisting others will always violate this Principle. There's not even a warrant for why it will more likely than not violate the PPH, or why it would normally violate the PPH.
Second: This argument is non-unique. The aff can follow the PPH just as well as the Neg can.
Third: If you don't buy my second response, then you can go ahead and just turn this argument in favor of the affirmative. I follow the PPH better than my opponent does. The negative world denies these obligations to assist exist, which leaves people in need to rot without so much as a "greater good" in mind. The affirmative is at least acting toward the greater good, whereas the negative isn't even doing that. This means if you buy his argument, it flows affirmative if it flows anywhere.
Fourth: His argument here assumes that we act on those obligations. Insofar as I don't have to defend acting on the obligation, the argument here has no link into the debate and no impact in terms of the affirmative case.

Argument Four: Contradictions

My opponent continues the trend of cherry-picking examples. The only difference between this fallacy and the previous fallacy is that these examples don't even have anything to do with one another. My obligation to help someone is independent of crimes or things like that. If anything that's just the state's way of giving that man a home and punishing him for his crime at the same time.
Second: My opponent massively strawmans what Gintis et al is saying here. Just because people are needy, that doesn't mean they are exempt from the law. Criminals are prosecuted as criminals would normally be. All Gintis is saying by that quote is that we help those who are in need and justly punish those who are causing problems (like murderers, rapists, etc.). There's no contradiction

Argument Five: Individuals vs. Society (while I await my opponent's expansion of this point, I will respond to what he has said this round regardless)

There's no warrant as to why society and the individual can't both have obligations. My opponent is just setting up this false dichotomy that either the society can help or the individual can, but ignores the possibility of both helping. In his example, the citizen merely calling the fire department is helping.
Second: My opponent claims I need to warrant why individuals still have the obligation even if the state can provide the assistance better. This is, again, making the faulty assumption that I have to defend implimentation of the obligation. All the resolution asks me to defend is that the obligation exists, and there's no warrant for why that invalidates the individuals obligation to help. Imagine a person is drowning in a pool and both myself and a lifeguard are in a position to help the person drowning. Just because the lifeguard may be better equipped to save the drowning person, that doesn't warrant why I don't have an obligation to help the drowning person (I could just call out to the lifeguard to direct his attention to the drowning person and/or call 911 so that paramedics can be here when the lifeguard gets the drowning person out of the pool, ensuring that person receives proper medical attention as quickly as possible).

As such, this debate breaks down really simply:

1. My opponent accepted my definition of moral obligation. This means that I just have to defend whether or not the obligation exists, not on how we actually go about fulfilling the obligation.
2. My opponent concedes my entire naturalism argument. You can thus extend that out as the default framework for the round.
3. My opponent provides no other weighing mechanism for the round. You thus have to default to my value and criterion. This means that whoever is best engaging empathetically with others wins the round. Since my opponent is making no attempt to prove he does such a thing, you default to voting affirmative, even if you don't buy a single argument I've made this debate, as I have the best chance of engaging empathetically with others.
4. All my opponent has responded to are hasty generalisations of my arguments, and not the warrants behind my arguments. As such you can extend out each of my contentions (Olson, Gintis et al, Ruse), which prove how I best fulfill my criterion.
5. There's numerous turns to vote affirmative off of on my opponent's side of the flow if you don't buy my case.



What Aff does this round is very interesting. He brushes off the specific arguments which I use to attack his resolution & challenges the methodology behind them. This sort of strategy will prove fatal for his resolution, as his casual dismissal of the majority of my arguments reveals unsalvageable flaws.

So let's talk about the resolution a bit and how Aff perceives the meaning of it. He claims that all that he has to do is prove that the obligation exists. However, this is incomplete, much like the resolution overall. Aff must prove that the resolution is worthy of enacting. Here is the difference between what I am arguing regarding the obligation to assist the needy and what the resolution actually asserts: I argue that the obligation, when it exists, can only be justified by circumstance and can be invalidated by circumstance. The resolution provides no such caveats. The resolution states that the obligation exists, sure. But it is the duty of the resolution to delineate under which circumstances it is applicable. "Individuals" is the key term, insofar as the only premise that the resolution identifies as necessary for the existence of an obligation is for the actor to be an individual (as opposed to a state or organization of some sort). This will be addressed more later.

1. Kant

This resolution takes the form of a categorical imperative. It states that the obligation exists, and no more. So you could attack the resolution for being absurdly nebulous and defining literally nothing, stating that all definitions will "be up for debate". But the resolution is unclear as to when this obligation applies, how this obligation acts in relation to other obligations, how much we should give to the needy, etc. Overall, it's a markedly terrible resolution with a fatal dearth of clarity. I provide all of these situations in which the obligation would not apply and which it would be outweighed by competing obligations, and Aff just brushes this off as inconsequential for his argument. The key problem with Aff's resolution, as we shall see, is that it is actually too specific to be an uncaveated imperative. Not in terms of clarity, but in terms of what it commands. The impact of this point is essentially the notion that, if it can be shown that the resolution does not function categorically as an imperative and yet lacks circumstantial contingency, we show that the resolution is incomplete.

2. Admittedly, the information was irrelevant to an extent. The point is that Aff's argument is neither type.

3. This is where Aff fails once more to address my underlying framework. He is right in his interpretation of CI, however he does not warrant his conclusion whatsoever. "With no harmful reprocussions" - I have shown you many situations in which there ARE harmful repercussions, in which you act directly AGAINST Aff's naturalist framework, and which utterly prove that this maxim should not be a universal law.

4. I don't warrant why assisting people violates their rights because that is not my point, interestingly enough. My point is that, if the action does happen to violate the rights of the needy or anyone else, then you ought not assist the needy, meaning that Aff's obligation is not universal nor does it qualify as a categorical imperative.

So what does this mean for Aff's resolution? The purpose of this fourth contention is to show that most ostensible categorical imperatives are not categorical imperatives whatsoever. They are contingent upon circumstance, and to TRULY define what our absolute obligation ought to be, we must broaden our scope of interest and create a maxim which can be universal. This maxim, such as "never treat others as merely a means to an end" or "We ought respect human beings as inviolable autonomous ends in and of themselves" can dictate different actions. In many circumstances, they may dictate that we assist those in need. However, they may also dictate that we refrain from doing so. This demonstrates that Aff's absolute obligation is actually only a likely yet circumstantial extension of a larger obligation, say the obligation to respect others as ends in and of themselves. If the broader obligation is, as Aff believes, to act in accordance with naturalism, then my contentions in point 2 provide evidence that the duty to assist the needy is also a mere likely extension of a larger obligation, that is to act in accordance with naturalism.

2. Nature of Humans

Aff misinterprets my argument here as well. I in fact did address his Olson and Gintis articles by essentially reducing them to calls for reciprocal behavior. In fact, I show using Aff's own source that his naturalistic framework which he strives to act in accordance with often calls for what would be punishment of the needy. The resolution argues for altruism, while these sources argue for reciprocity within a society. Also, my contention was essentially that these sources argue for reciprocity and certain behaviors within a given society, but I have provided evidence that the existence of reciprocity and treatment of others is altered when we move to relations between different groups or societies. This challenges Aff to warrant the extension of his arguments, which, as stated by Olson, is evidence for "organizing societies". If this is how reciprocity works within a society, then why are we obligated to behave similarly when acting upon or refraining from acting upon members of foreign societies? Aff may offer the notion of a global community, as stated in Olson, however, as I've shown, humans from differing societies certainly do not naturally see it this way.

His contradiction is not satisfactorily addressed. Rather than an obligation to assist the needy, I point out that Olson and Gintis would assert an obligation to behave reciprocally. Gintis specifically states in his article that there exists a propensity to "...punish those who violate cooperative norms". If this is true, then we see that Aff's specious extension to altruism is refuted by the innate propensity to behave reciprocally, not altruistically. Now, of course, pure reciprocity may dictate something along the lines of "an eye for an eye", but even if the harm inflicted upon the criminal is mitigated to an extent, harm is still inflicted upon the criminal. If the criminal is needy, which criminals often are, statistically speaking, we have a naturalistic obligation to inflict harms of some sort upon him. Aff's only refutation is "jail is shelter" but no where in his article is a jailhouse mandated reciprocally. Reciprocity means inflicting some sort of harm on the criminal, which societies tend to do. If the benefits outweigh the harms, then he is not truly punished. If the harms outweigh the benefits, then he is not truly assisted overall. Merriam-Webster: to punish is "to make (someone) suffer for a crime or for bad behavior"

The majority of Aff's argument is spent warranting naturalism, and he makes a last-ditch effort to extend this to unfettered altruism. However, the notion that humans are innately altruistic is challenged by the notion that we are only altruistic in a reciprocal manner. Our altruism is limited by reciprocity and the desire to punish those who break laws or norms. This displays that Aff's resolution is incomplete in yet another fashion. We ought to assist the needy, save for the needy who commit crimes or act against social norms and the needy whose assistance would require violating universal maxims which we ought to abide by, such as never treating anyone as merely a means to an end. Aff tries to assert that the resolution and framework do not at all contradict by stating that we should still enact justice, but that's exactly my point. If there is an overarching obligation to consistently apply justice, for example, then the "obligation" to assist the needy is circumstantial and a mere extension of a universal maxim.

3. My opponent merely attacks my example here. I could just as easily have stated that the fire department was already there, in which case he once again is left with the burden of warranting the necessity & significance of the individual assisting.

4. Who is obligated? Who is needy? To what extent?

This resolution is hopelessly vague. While it states that individuals are obligated, it never states what the definition of "needy" is. Is "needy" merely relative? Does a man making $11k per year have an obligation to monetarily assist a man making $10k? Does a man who hasn't eaten in 2 days have an obligation to give his food to a man who hasn't eaten in 4? And to fulfill this obligation, would we have to markedly assist the needy? Or would tossing a penny to a beggar be sufficient? Technically, a penny will help this beggar, though only marginally. If this fulfills the resolution, then we would take issue with the infinitesimally small significance of what the resolution insinuates. But the point is, the resolution is so vague, so nebulous, and so circumstantial that no one in their right mind should vote for it. It would be like me stating that individuals have an obligation to hunt in groups because humans hunt in groups naturally and hunting is good for group solidarity.

Aff's defense of the res. is quite comical actually. He states that he only has to warrant the existence, not acting upon the duty. But if I show that acting upon the obligation could be impermissible, and the obligation relies on the imperative to help the needy, then how could it be both impermissible to help the needy and one's moral duty to help the needy? In my examples, the obligation doesn't exist. If it did, we ought act upon it, b/c that's how obligations function.


1. Extend previous paragraph
2. I concur
3. Standard BOP applies. Aff needs evidence that res. acts according to his value. If I prove it doesn't, res. is defeated
4/5 Covered above

If situations exist where the obligation does not exist, the resolution is incomplete & worthy of defeat.

Debate Round No. 3


My opponent (hilariously) keeps trying to push me into doing things that are entirely unecessary and continues cherry-picking examples and saying "this is the trend", which are the major reasons why my arguments still stand and why you're affirming. But let's get more specific.

There's a few places specfically that this debate is getting narrowed down to, which is what the resolution means, do these obligations exist, and does helping people really help them. I'll go in order.

But before I begin, I want to make one crucial point crystal clear to the voters: my opponent provides no other kind of weighing mechanism to vote off of. He even concurs to fall under my framework. This is a damning mistake on my opponent's part because you have to default to my value and criterion since he provides no other weighing mechanism for the round. Why this is a damning mistake is that because you are defaulting to my value and criterion, the vote becomes a simple judgement of who is being most consistent with empathy. This is a guaranteed affirmative vote because not only does my opponent have absolutely no link into my framework, not only that he's not even attempting to link into my framework due to the fact that he's trying to REFUTE the concept of empathy instead of showing how he does it better, but even if you don't buy a single argument I have made or will make this entire debate, you STILL affirm because I have the best chance of actually being consistent with empathy since I'm the only one even attempting to link into to it. This is literally as far as you have to read this debate. Don't let him go back and try to change this, he's already conceded to fall under my framework, hold him to it.

Now to respond to the rest of the debate.

Part One: The Resolution

The problem with what my opponent is saying that I have to prove that we should enact this and how we enact this is that it's not in the resolution. He makes the claim that because I'm affirming it I have to show that it's worth doing, but that's just a misrepresentation of what it means to affirm something. Affirm literally means " to say that something is true in a confident way, to show a strong belief in or dedication to [something]"(1). So to affirm the resolution, all I have to do is say that the resolution as stated is true. As such, as I've clearly stated before, all I have to do is prove that we have the moral obligation to assist people in need. How we do it or why we do it is absolutely irrelevant.
Second: Even if you buy his "worthy" argument here, he already accepted my definition of "moral obligation" which was that a moral duty that one isn't required to uphold. So even if I do have to prove that we ought to enact the resolution, I still don't have to prove implimentation as per the defintions of the resolution. And don't let him go back on this because he agreed to it in the very first round, so hold him to it.
Third: This view that the affirmative must show that the resolution is worth enacting is silly. How do we enact the resolution "The Keystone XL Pipeline should be constructed", petition to Congress to start it up? How do we enact the resolution "God probably exists", enter the seminary to spread his good will? His argument is inconsistent with what a resolution is. A resolution is a simple statement who's validity is being challenged. One person is defending the validity of the statement (affirming the resolution) while the other is challenging it's validity (negating the resolution). It's not a question of policy-making, but rather truth-testing. If the resolution is true (That individuals do indeed have obligations to assist those in need), then you affirm. If the resolution is false (that individuals don't have obligations to assist those in need), then you negate. Showing why we ought to enact the resolution is irrelevant since that's not what a resolution is.

As such, all I have to do is show that the obligation exists. This is a game-over point for my opponent because his entire case revolves around the concept of the when, how and why, when the resolution is essentially a yes or no question and all of the details he's trying to bring up against me are outside of the scope of the debate. This de-links nearly every argument he makes against me, aside from maybe the Kant stuff which I'll get to in a moment. And since he didn't provide any other weighing mechanism for the round to be evaulated under he HAS to link to my framework, which he's failing to do on multiple levels.

Part Two: Obligations

The entire first paragraph under the Kant stuff is just talking about how I don't explain the how, when, why, etc. As already explained, I don't have to defend that.
Second: No warrant as to why I'm neither type. Moreover, no warrant as to why I have to follow Kantian logic. I'm proving through my framework and contentional arguments as to why we have a moral obligation through empathy, which my opponent still has not sufficiently refuted any of the warrants behind. And since there's no warrant for why empathy has to be categorical (nor is there a warrant for why empathy isn't categorical other than the cherry-picking examples I've already refuted), you can still affirm that I'm proving a moral obligation through my case.
Third: His only response to the turn I made against the CI is that he's provided examples to where it could potentially be harmful but it's still just his cherry-picked examples. He's STILL failed to provide a warrant as for a) that these situations happen in the real world and b) if these examples he's giving are a trend representative of what happens in the real world or that they're just outlier cases or that c) that the "harms" in his cases outweigh the benefits of assisting or compromises any significant moral rights. Insofar as he hasn't done that, the turn still stands, you can affirm here.
Fourth: My opponent claims that his point isn't what I'm attacking. If his point really is that the assisting violates people's rights, thus shouldn't happen, he NEEDS TO WARRANT WHY THIS IS TRUE. I could say that "if airbags potentially break bones upon deployment, then we shouldn't use airbags in cars" which is a) a conclusion that doesn't follow from the premise and b) an unwarranted assertion. I never show you how the airbags break bones nor how often this actually happens, and neither has my opponent. In order for his point to have any kind of weight, HE NEEDS THIS WARRANT. He's not giving it to you. Therefore, there's no reason to evaluate or give any kind of credence to his argument here.

Part Three: Contentions

Group pretty much all of my opponents responses from "2. Nature of Humans" to "break-down":

First: This is, again, outside the scope of the resolution. This entire section talks about various ways I fail to warrant the hows and whens, which I've already explained is outside of the scope of the debate. You can drop all of this here. But even if you don't buy this argument:
Second: Start on the first paragraph of the segment. The entire "obligations shift between societies" implies that the obligation exists in the first place. This is automatic affirmation of the resolution if you buy his argument since it assumes that an obligation to others exists, which is exactly what the resolution asks me to affirm.
Third: My opponent misses the point of my defense to the contradiction. My defense was that he's making a false comparison of two different situations that aren't comparable. No where in his second paragraph talking specifically about the "contradiction" does he address this, rather just addresses the semi-joking explanation to the criminal example. Moreover, even if you buy the contradiction in the card, the contradiction still doesn't address the actual warrant behind what Gintis et al is saying, which REMAINS unaddressed.

Lastly, I want to address the paragraph starting with "Aff's defense of the res. is quite comical actually". Again, my opponent has failed to warrant how assisting the needy is morally impermissible. He has given a bunch of random, cherry-picked examples of things that could potentially harm one party in some way with no warrant for if this actually happens in the real world and if this is a notable trend rather than just outlier cases that don't depict what actually is the case and saying that it makes it impermissible, thus obligations don't exist. Let's put this in syllogism form for you to see clearer:

P1: X example is possible
P2: X example potentially violates someone's rights were we to assist them in X example
C1: It would be impermissible to assist them
C2: Obligations to assist people don't exist

Not only does the first conclusion not follow from the premises, but the second conclusion doesn't follow from the first. I have an obligation as a brother to punch my sister's abusive boyfriend in the face for being abusive, but that doesn't make it a permissible action.

Moreover, a fatal flaw in this implimentation argument from my opponent is that he never considers the possibility that we can just find a way to assist them without harming them. There's nothing in his evidence or analysis that says that it isn't possible.

To summarize:

1. The debate is auto-affirmed because my opponent fails to provide any kind of weighing mechanism, and is thus forced to fall under mine. That makes the debate a "who is more consistent with empathy" debate, which I'm the only one even trying to win. Vote here.
2. Virutally every response made by Con is outside the resolution. That leaves my arguments uncontested. Vote here.
3. My opponent's examples are unwarranted as to why they depict any kind of real world trend. Nor does he explain why we can't just help people without hurting them. Vote here.
4. Even if you don't buy empathy for some reason, I'm proving assisting others fits as a CI. Vote here.


This round is imperative for anyone voting to read, as it will hammer the nail into the coffin, ensuring that there is absolutely no way that anyone could possibly vote Aff on this resolution.

Concerning his value framework: My opponent fundamentally misunderstands what he himself is advocating for in this debate and the impact of this advocacy. He, in the first round, initially warrants the assumption that Aff is superior because, if we are wrong, then “the duties denied and ignored would be insurmountable violations”. However, as I’ve shown, an obligation of this sort would still lead to a certain level of duties denied and ignored, which would also be insurmountable violations. My opponent will claim that he still wins because he mitigates these violations to a greater extent than I do. However, he fundamentally misunderstands what a statement of value is and how it functions. A statement of value is essentially what one ought to do. To see if the statement of value is valid, we must subject it to actual examples to see if the obligation leads to permissible actions. If we find situations in which the obligation leads to impermissible actions, we caveat situations in which the obligation does not exist. While Aff’s argument essentially asserts that not voting for his resolution leads to the incurring of an opportunity cost, namely the forgoing of duties, he does not realize that, by enacting this resolution, we still incur an opportunity cost. We forgo dutiful actions in certain situations merely because the resolution lacks comprehensiveness. All I have to do to defeat this resolution is propose a counterplan that is both mutually exclusive in regard to the resolution and superior in terms of opportunity cost. If I propose the counterplan, through caveated severance, that “individuals have the moral obligation to assist the needy so long as such an action does not impinge upon the inviolable rights of others and acts in accordance with societal reciprocity”, then I win outright. Why? Because I solve for issues that Aff chose not to solve for when proposing this resolution. This is a superior counterplan, and a vote for Neg is a essentially a vote affirming the existence of a superior alternative forgone if you were to vote Aff.

According to this site on LD, "As long as the opportunity cost is less than the cost of the action, then you should do the counterplan instead of the plan"

The Resolution

I love this next part. My opponent offers us a resolution that is, in essence, a statement of value. But not a contextual statement of value. Aff gives us a sweeping, broad resolution about a single moral obligation with absolutely no context whatsoever. Then, when I try to provide some context, Aff defends his resolution by stating that "the view that the affirmative must show that the resolution is worth enacting is silly." What is silly is the notion that a value claim does not need to be tested to see if it truly produces desirable results. Why does Aff need to show that the resolution is worth enacting? I don't know, why does any debater need to show that his resolution is worth enacting? Showing that something is worth enacting and actually produces the desired results is the entire point of a debate. Then he fallaciously equates two examples with the example at hand. He merely words the first example of Keystone to sound absurd, but to debate whether or not the pipeline should be constructed, would you not think it wise to deliberate over what benefits and costs the pipeline will provide? The next example is a statement of fact, and the implications of existence bear no weight on such a statement, but the existence of an obligation can be tested, because stating that someone has an obligation is just a different way of saying that they ought to act in a certain way. In no manner is the existence of an obligation comparable to the existence of my laptop. A value claim can always be reworded to the existence of an obligation, but that does not make it a claim of fact. Even if the existence of an obligation is seen by voters as a statement of fact, I win merely because, by definition, an obligation means that one ought to do something, and attacking the notion that we ought to do something is sufficient by definition to refute an obligation.


My opponent's response to every extension I use is "well that's just cherry picking" and "that's irrelevant". Essentially, my opponent concedes that, in these situations, we ought not assist the needy. Are these examples really "cherry-picking"? Well, sort of. It depends how you define cherry-picking. A better simplification of what I'm doing through the examples would be "finding situations in which the resolution is markedly false." Because my opponent has refused to accept that these display that the resolution is sometimes false, namely that the obligation to assist the needy often does not exist, let us visit a syllogism to prove my point.

Obligation defined as “A duty which one… ought to perform”

A. An obligation to assist the needy exists
B. You ought assist the needy

A ⇒B


Therefore ~A

Because my opponent has not engaged with specific examples in which we ought not assist the needy, he cannot contest this proof that, in the situations I have provided as well as all extensions of the conceptual basis of those examples, the obligation does not exist.

Therefore, the moral obligation isn't universal; it does not always exist ergo not a CI. Insofar as the moral obligation does not always exist, and the resolution merely states that it does, the resolution is unacceptable. I apologize if this is not the strategy that Aff would have liked me to use to attack the resolution, but I cannot be blamed for a faulty resolution.

The resolution is phrased as an obligation. Unlike the existence of God or Santa Claus, the existence of an obligation requires circumstantial analysis. This is why most claims of value are actual applications of the value, not sweeping generalizations about what one ought to do. An obligation suggests how one ought to act. If we are given the resolution “You are walking down the street and you see an emaciated homeless child lying on the sidewalk. You have a bag of trail mix in your backpack, and you are fairly well-off financially. You have an obligation to give the bag of trail mix to the child”, we can analyze it in a direction that Aff probably would have liked the debate to have gone in. But insofar as the debate is a sweeping value claim with literally no caveats, we are FORCED to apply the value to see if it truly is an obligation. When making a value claim, you must ensure that it outweighs competing values that may better explain how we ought to act. If there is a superior moral calculus which we ought to subject our actions to, then the obligation cannot truly be stated to exist sans contingency.

Even if the broader calculus suggests that we assist the needy on one occasion, the obligation is to act in accordance with this higher, more consistent calculus, which just so happens to, in this instance, require us to assist the needy. If your resolution dictates how one ought to behave and will occasionally lead to people acting impermissibly, then your resolution is unacceptable and ought to be replaced by one either broader or caveated. Aff could have caveated his case to solve for contradictions within the realm of permissible action. Aff could have rewritten his case to solve for inconsistencies by broadening the resolution so that it actually was universally applicable. But Aff did neither of these things and left us with this faulty value claim. A value claim should not be weighed on whether it makes us better off than the status quo. A value claim should be weighed on whether or not it is consistent, complete, and holds up to scrutiny, none of which apply to Aff’s resolution. It was his choice to run the case. It was his choice to omit caveats and definitions. And it was his choice to condemn his resolution to defeat. A rational voter could not possibly vote Aff with such a faulty resolution.

My opponent makes the mistake of calling for a warrant from me to prove that assisting people can violate the rights of others. He then later realizes that he should probably throw in the argument "you should find a way to help without harming" just in case. He misunderstands what a hypothetical situation is. I imagine a situation that is possible and apply Aff's resolution to it. Aff acknowledged earlier that situations may exist in which we shouldn't assist but that's just cherry picking and doesn't prove the obligation doesn't exist to him. If these situations happen, they could be "outliers". But he misses the point. He actually drops this next contention, and, unfortunately for him, cannot address it without making a new argument. I suggest that there is a broader obligation at work, such as accordance with naturalism or empathy, that may often extend to altruism. But it may just as easily extend to punishment, which harms the needy, as Aff concedes by lack of response. The resolution states that the obligation exists without contextual basis! But Aff drops my point about the "obligation" being a mere extension of an actual obligation, which may just as easily dictate that you behave differently. This concession alone should raise enough doubt to vote Neg. And my hypothetical included no other way to help. Now Aff's the one skirting the issue. I aimed to explore the possibility of superior overriding duties that render the "obligation" non-existent. Yelling "irrelevant" at every contention a victory does not make.

And no, you aren't obliged to punch your sister's boyfriend in the face. You're obliged to contact authorities if anything.

For lack of space, you'll find my pseudo points of crystallization of the round to be both bolded and underlined.

Debate Round No. 4


I'm not going to lie, I'm highly dissapointed in this debate. Instead of having a debate over actual substance and philosophy and things that I actually hoped for, the debate devolved into a meta-analysis of what a resolution is. Which is fine. I don't mind a decent meta-debate every now and then.The debate breaks down into one simple point at the end of the day: do I have to enact the resolution to affirm it.

The first answer to this is in the analysis under my third argument. Funny enough he attacks the examples I give here but doesn't actually respond to my argument being made here: that resolutions are truth-statements and that the sides are defending the validity of the statement or attacking the validity of the statement. He never responded to this argument, rather just attacked the notion that it's silly to question whether or not resolutions are meant to be implimented. Because he never responds to this, it's a conceded argument proving why I don't have to enact the resolution.

The second answer to this is the second argument I make that he has, again, dropped. This is saying how he's already agreed to abide by my definition of moral obligation, which states that an obligation is something that we morally ought to do but are not required to do. This is a direct refutation to this notion of I have to enact the resolution and he agreed to it. Don't let him back out of it now because that's highly unfair to me.

The third answer to this is the first argument I make which is where I say the definition of what it means to affirm the resolution is, definitionally, to say something is true. Not "show in the real world" or "impliment". Just to say that it's true. Which means that affirming the resolution means that I just have to say that the resolution "Individuals have a moral obligation to assist those in need" is true. Which has absolutely nothing to do with actually going to assist them. Even if you don't like the fact that I accidently left out the link to the dictionary site I used from my round and had to post it in the comments, which shouldn't sway you much since it's just a common dictionary definition and shouldn't change a whole lot, he drops this argument as well.

That's three separate reasons why I don't have to impliment the resolution. Three separate reasons that he hasn't responded to. There's literally no reason to not have this argument flow aff. And this is the game-over mistake for my opponent because this takes out every argument he's made so far because his entire argument this entire debate has been "there could be instances of when we're assisting we do something bad, so we shouldn't do it in every situation, and thus it's not an obligation". But since I don't have to show how we impliment the resolution, he doesn't have a single argument you can vote off of for this debate. Game over, affirm right here.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE. Even if you don't buy any of those reasons, let's go to this entire concept of his "counter-plan" that he explains in Round 4.

If he wants to get technical with the LD link, then two can play that game. If he's really running a counter-plan, he has no plan-text (saying what specifically links to your CP and doesn't link to your CP, essentially what ground your CP covers, which is the MOST ESSENTIAL PART OF A CP), inherency (Why the affirmative is perpetuating this problem and it isn't just occuring naturally regardless of side), uniqueness (how only he can solve for this issue and why I can't fix it), or solvency (how he even fixes the problem in the first places), despite me repeatedly calling for these warrants this entire debate. His entire "counter-plan" consists of a few randomly picked examples with no actual real-world link and saying how this disproves an obligation. Absolutely no link and no warrant present anywhere here. The best part? He says in round three "I don't warrant why assisting people violates their rights because that is not my point, " then turns around in the very next round and says that's exactly what his point is. Don't let him shift the goalposts on me, force him to stay to one stance. Moreover, even if he isn't shifting the goalposts here, he still needs this warrant. If he's trying to prove "if affirming violates rights, then we ought not assist", then he needs to show how I actually violate these rights, otherwise the argument has no warrant and no impact. That's like saying "If seatbelts give people herpes while they're driving, we ought not wear seatbelts" without showing how seatbelts give people herpes. This means there's literally cannot be a place for him to win in this resolution, which means it's an easy vote for the affirmative.


The only remaining possible place you could potentially even consider voting negative is off of the Kantian-CI-Obligations-thingy debate. So let's go there now.

The biggest problem here is the only reason he claims affirming doesn't meet CI is that there could be examples where people's rights get hurt if we do this. Since this relies on the resolution being something I have to enact, which I already refuted above in three separate ways, he has no offense here either. Moreover, even if you still don't buy that assisting people fits as a CI, then you just look to the aff case where I prove that we have a moral obligation through empathy, which he has yet to refute, which is the entire purpose of the AC. The only thing on my case that he's touched is that the language in Gintis et al says that I could potentially harm people, but he doesn't respond to the actual warrants behind anything in my contentions, and even agrees to abide by my framework (which I'll talk about more in just a moment), so even if assiting others in need isn't a CI, I can still prove that we have an obligation outside of the negative case and in my unrefuted AC.


My entire case stands unrefuted. The only kind of responses he's put against my case is saying the language in one of my cards could potentially justify harming someone (which I responded to, which he didn't reply back to) and that we prefer to help people who are closer to us (which I responded to, which he didn't reply back to). This means that you can cleanly extend out every contentional argument I make. The best part of this? He agrees to abide by my framework. This means that even if you don't buy a single argument I've made thus far, if you still have no idea what you're going to vote for in this debate, you default affirmative because a) I'm the only one trying to actually link to my framework. He's promoting not assisting people whereas I'm promoting assisting people, which means that the only one who has any kind of link into the framework is me, and that b) you default aff anyway because even if acting potentially harms the rights of a few people, it's outweighed by all the rights of the other people we assisted and helped whos rights are now protected and secured (hence the prefer aff argument I made in my case, don't let him say this is a new argument because I made it at the very beginning of my case).


The debate breaks down super easily. You're going to affirm because:

1. I'm proving in three different ways I don't have to prove implimentation, which destroys literally every single argument my opponent makes because they're all hingent on him winning that.
2. Even if you don't buy that, I showed how my opponents arguments in the "counter-plan" have no warrant or link into my case, so there's no reason to prefer them. I'm also showing how I fit the CI, and it doesn't matter if I do or not anyway since I'm proving through my case how I prove an obligation.
3. My case remains virtually unrefuted and his only non-responsive rebuttals have been refuted, extend it all across the flow.
4. But last and not least, even if you still need a place to affirm, you default to aff because I'm at least doing the best job of trying to meet my framework, whereas he's not doing any work to meet it, despite agreeing to fall under it.

Four reasons to affirm, and no reason to negate. I say that's a solid aff win.


Hello, and thank you for all who are following and to my opponent for the debate. He may be disappointed, and I am too to an extent. However, that does not mean you should judge the round any differently, nor does it mean that I didn't have fun with some quasi-meta debate, which is always a good time. But I digress.

I think it's important to address Aff's crystallization before we dive into my own.

Aff breaks this down interestingly. Do we have to enact the resolution to affirm it? A better question would be "must we extend the resolution to the real world to see if it is true." And the answer is unequivocally yes. But onto Aff's 3 points.

1. I never attacked the notion that the resolution is a truth statement? REALLY? Did my opponent write this before reading my last round? A plurality of round 4 is me talking about how the res. is a claim of value and not fact and why that matters! I said that a claim of value should be extended to see if it actually functions in real world situations. His only contention to this was that it wouldn't work for other claims, which I identified as claims of policy and fact and addressed satisfactorily. So don't buy this point. Consider my Round 4 value claim rant dropped by Aff.

2. Did I drop the meaning of obligation? Refer to my syllogistic proof that by Aff's own definition of moral obligation, the obligation, in many circumstances, does not exist whatsoever. My opponent totally drops this proof from R4 and thus drops my point that there exist situations where the resolution is markedly false.

3. Once again, he ignores what a claim of value is and how it functions. He states he merely must prove existence. I prove syllogistically that it often doesn't exist, and discuss why value claims ought to be tested.

Aff's argument that the resolution need not be extended through the most absurd yet possible of examples is ridiculous. He later tells us that I have not warranted that helping people causes harm, and that I need this warrant. I think this displays a lack of debater awareness on Aff's part...a misunderstanding of my point at the very least. I very clearly state throughout the debate, including in R4, that I use situation in which helping does cause harm as hypotheticals. I don't have to warrant that helping always leads to harming, only that we can imagine a situation in which helping does violate others' rights. I have already warranted this notion. Aff has already conceded this notion and attacked the validity of hypothetical altogether rather than the notion that we can imagine a situation which displays these qualities. Does helping necessarily lead to harm? No, of course not. But can an obligation to help hypothetically lead to infringing upon the rights of others and harming them? Of course! My opponent fatuously challenges the very notion of a thought experiment! Look up thought experiment! The trolley problem! The envelope! The ticking time bomb! What are these examples? THEY'RE TOOLS USED BY PHILOSOPHERS TO TEST THEIR ETHICAL THEORIES BY EXTENSION TO REAL WORLD APPLICATION! The ticking time bomb scenario challenges Kantian ethicists defending staunchly deontology. The envelope is a thought experiment to test obligation to assist the poor in other countries, used famously by Peter Unger. I challenge any voter to find a modern philosophy book in which the philosopher does not use thought experiment to test if their theory is applicable. But what do they do if the answer to the thought experiment contradicts their moral calculus? Do they brush it off as irrelevant? OF COURSE NOT! They reassess their theory in the context of this new information and consider how to fix it to account for this!

Unless you buy Aff's argument that moral obligations should never be subjected to thought experiments and other extensions, you can't buy his entire argument, as he says that this one point is what the debate boils down to. My opponent, on this point, argues as if he didn't read the last round. Of course examples apply & of course they're necessary to value claims! Shouting "irrelevant" predictably failed.

Now onto why you should vote for Neg.

Admittedly, I did probably miss some elements of the CP. Why? Because I've never made a CP. I've never done LD. But of course that's no excuse. Aff's LD spec does render my CP incomplete, as is his resolution (though for different reasons). But still consider the implications of the CP. Take into consideration the notion that there is an opp cost to enacting Aff's universal obligation.

But does this really matter for the debate? What is consequential for the debate is the notion that the resolution "individuals have a moral obligation to assist those in need" is incomplete. In fact, as I suggest throughout the debate, it's markedly false. My syllogism proving that, in cases that are possible in the real world, the obligation to assist the needy does not exist. But the resolution says the obligation does exist! How does Aff reconcile this contradiction? How does Aff address the notion that the res. states that the obligation exists yet in various circumstances it does not exist? He doesn't. He merely states that these extensions are irrelevant. That, even though I use them to PROVE that the obligation does not, in those situations, exist and that, in those situations, the resolution is false, it is irrelevant. Not only do I state why examples and thought experiments are relevant in round 4 and above, but I also show you that they can be used as evidence against the resolution. Evidence that Aff ignores.

Now, what conclusions do I draw from this proof? I suggest two possibilities. The first one concerns incompleteness of the resolution. The notion that it offers an opp. cost. But I address that in the CP. Let's examine my contention, DROPPED by Aff, suggesting that a larger obligation is at work here. Aff argues that we should act in accordance with naturalism. Ok. I then suggest that our obligation is actually this accordance with naturalism, and that any "obligation" to assist the needy is, as I've proven, circumstantial, but more importantly, a mere extension of this larger obligation. Just as it would be more accurate for a politician to state that he has a duty to represent the people than to state that he has a duty to subsidize farms, it is more accurate to state that an individual has an obligation to act in accordance with naturalism than to assert an obligation to assist the needy. He may sometimes be obliged to do so, but this is an extension of the true obligation, which may just as easily oblige him to punish/harm someone who is needy. How does my opponent address the notion that naturalism often calls for harming the needy when they've misbehaved? He doesn't. He first states that justice should still be done in those situations, which is exactly my point, and then he fails to address this later on. He drops the point on occasional obligation to act directly against the resolution. He then drops THIS ENTIRE POINT! He NEVER ADDRESSES THE POSSIBILITY THAT THE OBLIGATION LIES ABOVE ASSISTING THE NEEDY AND THAT ASSISTING THE NEEDY CANNOT TRULY BE AN OBLIGATION. My opponent wanted proof that the obligation doesn't exist at all, and this argument served as proof. But insofar as my opponent dropped this point, I win on this alone.

To address his last couple of paragraphs:

-Aff states this only occurs when rights are violated. This ignores cases in which punishment is mandated by naturalism.

-I'm not "promoting not assisting people". This is a straw man. I merely argue that the obligation doesn't exist. If, as I argue, the res. should be caveated or the obligation is to naturalism, I do not, by Aff's own arguments, forgo helping people. I do not oppose helping people, and the emotional argument that Aff is helping people bears no consequence for a resolution that asserts an obligation. This point is absurd, but you don't have to default to this argument, luckily, as I've given you other reasons to vote Neg.

-Aff states he's the only one trying to link his framework. If he addressed point made repeatedly that the framework itself, that is naturalism, is the obligation, then he would realize that in fact I do precisely what he says I do not. I use the framework against him. Luckily for voters, to make this easier for you, you'll find this point dropped. This flows to my side automatically.

-Aff's argument from utility, that is he saves the most people, has no bearing on the round. Even if you don't buy my arguments, a default as such is not proper for a debate about the existence of a moral obligation. As I've stated, Aff must prove this obligation to be true. So if you don't buy any of the arguments, default Neg because Aff hasn't proven his resolution. This is a no-brainer.

Gather round voters for a compendious summary of the debate:

1. Aff asserts that this all boils down to whether or not my real-world extensions are valid. He then ignores my warrant as to why real-world extensions are valid under a VALUE CLAIM and demands a warrant be shown. Take this warrant as dropped and I win according to AFF's own standard, as I've proven extensions to be valid.

2. I prove using a syllogism that Aff ignores that, in my hypotheticals, the resolution is markedly false. No response from Aff on this, except more calls for warrants. Not sure if a warrant can get much better than a syllogism.

3. Aff DROPS my point about naturalism itself being the true obligation and assisting the needy being an extension that may not apply in situations where rights are violated or punishment is called for by reciprocity. This was introduced a couple of rounds ago, Aff had ample time to address it, and it remains unchallenged. Thus, take it as conceded that the true obligation acting here is not the resolution. I win on this alone.

4. If you buy these, don't default to anything. Vote Neg. If you don't, Aff still must prove res.

5. Contrary to Aff's rebuttal, Round 4 happened.

Debate Round No. 5
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by whiteflame 6 years ago
It seems like that's where much of the initial argumentation lies. Perhaps most of the clash occurs elsewhere, and I'll finish reading it over later to see if it does markedly change and if I feel that I understand it well enough to provide feedback. If I wasn't flying home tomorrow morning I'd finish it tonight, but as I am, it will have to wait.
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago
It doesn't come down to the philosophy at all.
Posted by whiteflame 6 years ago
Nevermind. Philosophical arguments such as these aren't my forte, and while I can engage with them on a basic level, I'd need to do some digging to understand these as they stand. It certainly seems like an interesting debate, I just don't feel qualified to analyze it with the depth of understanding it should receive.
Posted by whiteflame 6 years ago
I'll take my time with this and get a vote up hopefully by the end of the day.
Posted by ModerateLiberalism 6 years ago
While it is preferable that only people familiar with LD vote on this round, if it turns out that there is an extreme dearth of LD voters and the clock is ticking away, I wouldn't mind a few non LD debaters casting votes so long as they have experience in SOME kind of debate, be it Policy, PF, Parli, etc. So long as Zaradi agrees with this, of course.
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago
Whoops, missed that affirm source:
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago
Aaaaand now I've hit the point where I lose all motivation to keep going.

Blaaaarg time to flog myself into getting this done.
Posted by ModerateLiberalism 6 years ago
These character limits are daunting...

But more importantly, not sure if Zaradi has clarified this yet, but to all potential voters, remember that you are voting for or against the resolution here. So in a real policy or LD debate, to my understanding, you would obviously not judge based upon civility or grammar, though you certainly shouldn't ignore these things. Just like in Parliamentary debate, you vote for the resolution if you believe that it should pass, and vote against it if you believe that it shouldn't. Not sure how to work that out with DDO's voting system, but I would assume that you would either have to only allocate points under the convincing argument category, or that you would just award all 7 points to either side, sans consideration as to which one of us actually had better grammar (unless that actually affected your opinion on the resolution somehow, of course).
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago
When you have to compress 30-50k character cases to 10k, it can get kinda bad :P
Posted by ModerateLiberalism 6 years ago
I had to leave out a couple constructive points. Can't spread on DDO lol. My last point is also pretty undeveloped, but I hope to expand on that later. My character count was also somewhere between 9990 and 10,000. Didn't realize how constrictive 10,000 characters limit really is.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: As this debate had a lot of concepts running through it, there are a lot of reasons I could have sided with either party in this debate. However, I feel that the vast majority of argumentation from Con is hinging on whether Pro can implement the resolution rather than whether the resolution is true, and Pro spends a large amount of time going through and refuting this on multiple levels. Con never fully addresses these responses. Burdens are important to discuss within this round, and while I don't feel that Pro set it up fairly, Con isn't doing enough here. Con does a good job setting up a counter argument and looking at it through separate philosophical lenses, but throughout the debate, I never felt that there was sufficient reason in his argumentation to negate the moral obligation. Reduce it? Maybe. Have others in contention? Certainly. But that doesn't remove the obligation itself, nor does it minimize it to the point at which individuals don't or shouldn't have that obligation.

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